An Objection to Weak Perspectivism

Introduction:  Steven Hales and Rex Welshon present an interpretation of Nietzsche’s perspectivism in their aptly titled book, Nietzsche’s Perspectivism.  Let ‘strong perspectivism’ be the thesis that every statement is true in at least one perspective and false in at least one other.   ‘Weak perspectivism’ is the thesis that “there is at least one statement such that there is some perspective in which it is true, and some perspective in which it is not true.” (31)  After presenting the argument against strong perspectivism, I argue that weak perspectivism creates a major problem of its own.

1. Argument against strong perspectivism:  Hales and Welshon argue that weak perspectivism avoids the self referential problem.  The self-referential objection goes like this: 

1.1 Assume that perspectivist truth is true across all perspectives. 

1.11 If so, then the proposition, “perspectivism is true in all perspectives” is true in all perspectives;

1.12 But if it is true in all perspectives, then there exists an absolute truth, and therefore perspectivism is false (~1.1).

1.2 On the other hand, assume that perspectivism is true in some perspectives and false in other perspectives. 

1.21 Therefore, there exists at least one perspective in which absolutism is true (true by definition). 

1.22 If absolutism is true concerning some proposition in some perspective, then by definition that proposition is true across all perspectives (true by definition). 

1.23 But we originally assumed that perspectivism is true in some perspectives (1.2):  if perspectivism is true in some perspectives concerning some proposition, then absolutism is false concerning that proposition (true by the definition of absolute truth). 

1.24 Therefore, absolutism is false across all perspectives. (~1.21) 

1.25 But if (1.24), then absolutism is false in all perspectives, and perspectivism is true in all perspectives. 

1.26 Hence, there exists one absolute truth, and perspectivism is false (~1.2). 

1.3 Therefore, strong perspectivism is false.

Weak perspectivism is an easy way to avoid the self-referential problem.  At least one statement is absolutely true in all perspectives, i.e. perspectivism is true in all perspectives.  This seems like an easy solution to the problem, but it creates new problems in the process of solving old ones.

2. My objection to weak perspectivism:  Assume weak perspectivism is true. 

2.1 Presumably, there is some mechanism in each perspective which determines what is true in that perspective, e.g. Aristotle knows how to determine what is true in his own perspective, etc.  

2.11 Assume that each perspective cannot determine what is true within its own perspective, e.g. a Platonist could tell an Aristotelian what is true in the latter’s perspective.  (Reductio to prove 2.1)

2.12 If Plato could tell Aristotle what was true in Aristotle’s system, and Aristotle disagrees, who would ultimately decide what is true in Aristotle’s perspective?  There are two options:  either we develop a perspectivism about what is perspectivally true in a perspective, or we do not.

2.121 Assume we develop a perspectivism about what is perspectivally true in Aristotle’s perspective, i.e. Plato has a perspective on what is true in Aristotle’s perspective, and Aristotle has a perspective on what is true Aristotle’s perspective. 

2.1211 If so, then we merely move the problem:  who determines which perspective is true concerning what is true in Aristotle’s perspective?  We are brought back to the same problem mentioned in (2.12), and we are no closer to a solution.  If we continue this line of reasoning, we will have an infinite regress on our hands. 

2.122 If not (2.121), then the perspectivist is caught in the same epistemological trap that they sought to avoid by denying absolute truth in the first place:  the different philosophical systems have all fought for millenia without agreeing on what is true and what is not.  Perspectivism argues that the absolute truth these systems seek does not exist, and that only perspectivist truth exists.  But under weak perspectivism, the perspectivist has no better means of determining what is perspectivally true in any perspective than traditional philosophers have of determining what is absolutely true across all perspectives.  Therefore, perspectivism doesn’t answer the objection it sought to answer in the first place.

2.13 Unless the perspectivist is willing to accept the consequences of (2.11) or (2.12), then he must accept (2.1).

2.2  Assume (2.1) is true.

2.21 If this is the case, the weak perspectivist cannot tell the strong perspectivist what is true in the latter’s perspective i.e. that an absolute truth exists in his perspective, which the latter explictly denies. 

2.211 If he does argue that an absolute truth exists in the strong perspectivist’s system, then he denies (2.2), and the argument from (2.1) applies. 

2.212 If the weak perspectivist allows the strong perspectivist to determine what is true in the latter’s perspective, then weak perspectivism is false:  there will always exist a perspective in which weak perspectivism’s thesis is false.    

2.3 Therefore, weak perspectivism leads to an infinite regress, or it fails to answer the objection it originally sought to answer, or it is false.

EDIT:  See my second article on this topics:

https://phamilton.wordpress.com/2007/04/13/weak-perspectivism-revisited/

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